Syrian Talks End: Conflict and Civilian Deaths Continue
The Geneva II Syrian peace conference ended Friday after a week of interruptions and hold ups, failing to come up with any mutually agreeable solutions. The United Nation’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke on Saturday, emphasizing both the importance of the Syrian chemical weapon stockpile removal and the importance of continued diplomatic efforts going forward. He noted that the UN Joint Special Representative for the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, spoke with both opposition and government delegations to invite them them for a second trip to Geneva on February 10.
“I sincerely hope that the second round of negotiations will begin as planned on 10 February,” said Ban according to a UN press release, also expressing a hope that the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, might be able to get both delegations to enter the second talks “with greater seriousness and urgency.” Unfortunately, since the wrap up of the negotiations, violence in Syria has crescendoed with barrel bombs and air raids on the region of Aleppo, north of Hama — presently a divided region with rebel groups and ruling forces both occupying portions.
The bombs and air raids lead to the death of 121 individuals a mere two days after peace talks had concluded. Sunday’s bombing aimed at rebel sites, was done using barrel bombs, which have been criticized in the past for their sweeping and variegated destruction. The attack killed twenty-one people, thirteen of them children, said Observatory Director Rami Abdel Rahman, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Sunday also saw an Islamic brigade leader killed by Al Qaeda in car bombings, which, according to CBS News, may lead to more intra-rebel conflict on top of government bombings and shelling. Another military rebel leader was killed Saturday in a twin suicide bombing that led to the death of twenty-six people. Syrian government-led forces have taken considerable grounds in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, and according to CBS News, activists are claiming that this movement has been largely driven by bombing of residential regions, resulting in the expulsion of both rebels and innocents.
According to CBS, Sunday also brought with it a video posted online of a man being beheaded by a Sunni fighter while onlookers watched and cheered. The video was placed on social media sights, and photos went on Instagram; the violence depicted is, according to CBS, one reason that a small number of minorities in Syria support Assad’s regime out of fear of extremist militant rule.
Finally, human rights reports from the recently evacuated Yarmouk Camp in Damascus revealed severe starvation. The suburb — occupied by rebel groups — was finally able to release hundreds, aid groups told NBC, but only after approximately eighty-nine died of hunger or malnutrition associated illness — mostly children and elderly civilians. Relief workers reporting to NBC have said that those remaining in the camp are suffering to the point of consuming cats, cactus, and grass. Amal Ahmad, a relief worker, told NBC that some individuals were shot by snipers while trying to gather grass for food, and that they are now being known as “martyrs of grass.”